My kitchen has a slanted win­dow.

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It was in­stalled by the pre­vi­ous own­ers, prob­a­bly two decades ago, be­cause it gives you a view of Ta­ble Moun­tain (pro­vided you stand in a spe­cific spot and crane your neck).

This win­dow had a wooden frame, but wood that re­ceives no at­ten­tion for two decades even­tu­ally turns to saw­dust. And saw­dust isn’t water­proof.

I be­came aware of this fact dur­ing my first win­ter in my 100-year-old house when rain­wa­ter started run­ning down the wall one stormy evening. Luck­ily, the new kitchen cup­boards were not at­tached to the wall – there was a gap – but all the plugs for the fridge, stove, wash­ing ma­chine and tum­ble dryer were on that wall! I fran­ti­cally tried to di­vert the wa­ter away from the plugs with bits of Prestik; thank­fully, there wasn’t a short cir­cuit. It was time for a re­place­ment.

I got quotes from a bunch of con­trac­tors. One guy just about fell off the roof and I nearly aban­doned the project when I re­alised it would take a care­ful bal­anc­ing act to in­stall that 4m-wide win­dow. But, even­tu­ally, the right peo­ple showed up with the right tools and the right ref­er­ences. Their quote was by far the high­est and when I ques­tioned the hefty price dif­fer­ence, the fac­tory man­ager called and con­vinced me that a com­pany with their his­tory would be able to de­liver.

Since the win­dow was in­deed high and in an awk­ward spot, and the guar­an­tee looked good, I ac­cepted the quote; the win­dow is also shaped like a par­al­lel­o­gram so it’s not your stan­dard square. A job for a spe­cial­ist, I reck­oned.

On the day of the in­stal­la­tion, a team of peo­ple ar­rived. They cov­ered the wooden floors with soft blan­kets and draped plas­tic sheets over the kitchen cup­boards. There was a fore­man, a su­per­vi­sor, a team of work­ers and, of course, the “tech­ni­cian” who sat ready with his tool bag on the roof. They were a well-oiled ma­chine; I felt re­as­sured.

Un­til they car­ried in the new win­dow. The frame was in­deed a par­al­lel­o­gram but the three in­side pan­els were all square. Maths is not my strong point but I know that three squares side by side form a rec­tan­gle.

I asked cau­tiously: “Is this the right win­dow for that hole up there where you’ve al­ready bro­ken out the old win­dow?” “Yes,” said the fore­man. “Def­i­nitely,” agreed the su­per­vi­sor. “Okay,” I said. “Be­cause I can see rain com­ing; that hole has to be closed soon...” “Right,” con­firmed the fore­man and su­per­vi­sor in uni­son. And then, un­sur­pris­ingly, the man on the roof with the tool bag ex­claimed: “But these win­dows are the wrong shape!”

The fore­man has­tened out the front door while the su­per­vi­sor anx­iously phoned the fac­tory. I grabbed the phone from her and pro­ceeded to be­have badly.

It turned out that the win­dow was in­deed mea­sured in­cor­rectly (all three times). So the new frame was closed up with planks that night and some or other poor soul in the fac­tory made three new pan­els overnight, all par­al­lel­o­grams which were in­stalled on time the next morn­ing.

The moral of the story? If you’re build­ing, su­per­vise – this was con­firmed by ev­ery­one in this ren­o­va­tions is­sue.

And rather pay more when it comes to spe­cialised tasks. If I hadn’t taken that ad­vice, there might still be planks nailed across the frame above my kitchen...

En­joy this is­sue!

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